Most staff, students, and parents have heard of the new schedule that will allow classes to run all year and incorporate an H-block on some days. There are a variety of opinions, and numerous actions have been taken in support of it…or against it. But undoubtedly the schedule has been cemented and will take effect next year.
The staff perspective on the new schedule is perhaps the least understood by the rest of the school community, yet is one of the most important as some teachers like Mr. Shea, Miss. Reidy, Mr. Hall and Miss. D’alise were involved with the committee that helped plan the implementation of the schedule.
The Warrior Weekly spoke to English teacher Mr. Shea to ask him about his experience and opinion regarding the new schedule. He shared his perspective and experience as an implementer of the new schedule for the 2016-2017 school year.
Q: What are the most important changes in the schedule compared to what we have now?
Mr. Shea: The main changes would be more full-year classes, as many feel that the existing semesterized schedule leaves less time for teachers to form continuous interactions with students across years; the incorporation of an H-block on some days, when students could get extra help, work on group projects, and teachers could plan enrichment; and the fact that students will take 7 credits, instead of 7.5 to 8 like now. Many students are worried about how finals will work, and we have not decided exactly how they will work.
Q: When was the new schedule officially confirmed? Why did the committee decide to wait until the 2016-2017 school year to implement it?
Mr. Shea: The new schedule was confirmed around the last day of school in June 2013. We had to wait until this year to implement it because Dr. Lord left in the middle of last year and the planning fell apart somewhat. Then there was a meeting in December of last year, at which point the committee decided to wait until 2016 to allow more time to plan.
Q: How do you think students will react to the new schedule? What does it make easier? What does it make harder?
Mr. Shea: At first students will dislike it, as it is natural to be afraid of change. I believe the school could have done a better job informing students about how the new schedule will work in advance. Most kids are nervous and afraid they’ll lose credit. Ultimately they will benefit from H-Block and full year experience as I said before. They will also have varied class times as blocks range from 60-72 minutes.
Q: Why did you get involved with the new schedule process? Why does the district believe we need a new schedule?
Mr. Shea: The school thinks we need a new schedule because in 2012 the school committee asked many teachers to start teaching six classes rather than five. This was controversial as AP teachers only had to teach five classes while non-AP teachers had to teach six. This led to opposition among teachers towards the administration’s decision. The town was thus no longer willing to support the block scheduling and decided to seek an alternative due to these and other political reasons. I personally got involved because I wanted to ensure the quality of education was preserved, [to ensure] that no teachers lost their jobs, and to lower class sizes.
After he had answered all of the questions, Shea added:
“The new schedule allows for more collaboration between teachers when planning class activities and growth of programs and initiatives by devoting more time within the school day to open planning. This is important as so many students have busy lives outside of school and teachers don’t have much time in the day to do anything but teach.”
For students the common reaction is “I don’t want to go back to eight blocks” or “I won’t be able to take as many different classes.” Statements like these express valid concerns and hopefully will be addressed before students have to make schedule decisions for next year.
For parents, the new schedule has no doubt raised varied reactions and, for some makes the school system in Andover seem better or worse based on their opinions.
Ultimately each of us must form our own opinion of the new schedule because it’s coming next whether we like it or not.
By Nick Gilpin